The Maltese Falcon

by Dashiell Hammett

Start Free Trial

Did Sam love Brigid in The Maltese Falcon?

I think that Sam loves Brigid at one point, but I don't think he's in love with her. He doesn't seem to be capable of loving anyone.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There isn't a definitive, correct answer to this question. It is an open-ended question that asks readers to debate it out and come to their own conclusions. A reader can certainly argue that Sam was in love with Brigid at one point (or even at the end of the story)....

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

There isn't a definitive, correct answer to this question. It is an open-ended question that asks readers to debate it out and come to their own conclusions. A reader can certainly argue that Sam was in love with Brigid at one point (or even at the end of the story). He does admittedly have a hard time turning Brigid in, and that does support the idea that he has some kind of feelings for her; however, that doesn't mean it is love. Sam would likely have a hard time turning in a good friend too.

Furthermore, Sam's struggle could be that turning in a client could be bad for business. At the same time, letting a killer go is also really bad for business. Personally, I don't think that Sam was in love with Brigid. I don't think that Sam is capable of loving anybody. He's too much of a hardened person that puts duty and business before people. Plus, Sam openly states he doesn't love her. He could be lying, but I don't think Sam needs too. He's a hard enough guy to say that he does love her and still send her to jail.

"Now on the other side we've got what? All we've got is the fact that maybe you love me and maybe I love you."

"You know," she whispered, "whether you do or not."

"I don't. It's easy enough to be nuts about you." He looked hungrily from her hair to her feet and up to her eyes again. "But I don't know what that amounts to. Does anybody ever?"

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The answer to this may be the opposite of what one would think from what is known about Spade's character. Hammett's description early in the story of Sam Spade as a "blond Satan" seems to tell it all: he is cynical and hard-boiled in the way one would expect of a private detective in this type of fiction. But the very fact he has to struggle with the decision to turn Brigid over for Miles's murder shows that he must have had genuine feelings for her. Without this, his rationalization that when your partner is killed in this business you're supposed to do something about it (even if you didn't like him) would not have even been necessary.

Through the story, Spade has shown himself as basically amoral. Though the falcon-seeking gang are reprehensible criminals, the indifferent way Spade proposes that they use Wilmer as the fall-guy shows that Spade himself has an arbitrary, ruthless quality in the way he acts. Had he not been in love with Brigid, he wouldn't have had the slightest doubt about turning her over to the police. Later, when Effie criticizes him for his heartlessness, he replies simply that Brigid killed Miles, and that's that. The ethic of the crime and espionage novel (seen in Hammett, Cain, Fleming and others) is that there's a line beyond which the hero will not go when love interferes with business.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think the answer to your question can be found in Sam's own words in the last chapter of the novel. He gives Brigid seven reasons why he is "sending her over" to San Quentin rather than letting her go. Then he says:

"Now on the other side we've got what? All we've got is the fact that maybe you love me and maybe I love you."

"You know," she whispered, "whether you do or not."

"I don't. It's easy enough to be nuts about you." He looked hungrily from her hair to her feet and up to her eyes again. "But I don't know what that amounts to. Does anybody ever?"

Sam Spade is a realist. He has had years of experience as a cop and as a private detective. He has seen the worst of humanity, and it has affected his character. He believes in hard facts and doesn't have much faith in emotions. He knows he would be crazy to trust Brigid O'Shaughnessy because he has seen how treacherous she can be. The fact that he turns her over to the police is pretty good evidence that he does not really love her. Does anybody ever know what love amounts to?

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team